Home & Design

On the Drawing Board

Area landscapers show you how to plan your garden and outdoor spaces


Walnut Hill Landscape Company
For homeowners seeking to transform their outdoor spaces by next spring, now is the time to start discussions with a landscape designer or architect. Allowing enough time for the design and planning stages will help you and your design team overcome any challenges that might arise, from coping with building regulations to working around obstacles in the terrain.

Here are some examples of successful landscape projects recently completed in our region. In addition to traditional decks and pools, landscapers today are upgrading homes’ exteriors with luxury amenities such as gazebos, fire pits, bocce ball courts, kitchens and bars.

Walnut Hill Landscape Company
Challenges: The original design was changed to comply with new waterfront property regulations, delaying the start and shortening the construction time to meet the client’s deadline.
Terrain: The terrain was flat so stone walls and a pergola were included.
Special Features: A gas fire pit acts as a visual feature and provides warmth during cool evenings. A summer kitchen with a mahogany pergola was designed for outdoor entertaining and dining.
Material Palette: The patio surface is made of Pennsylvania flagstone and the walls and steps are a custom blend of natural stone veneer with bluestone caps.
Plantings:  Large Foster Hollies were carefully placed behind the boulder waterfalls to screen the neighboring house.
Plan Design: Mike Prokopchak, Walnut Hill Landscape Company, Annapolis, MD.

McHale Landscape Design, Inc.
Challenges: Transforming the existing pool and stone terrace into an intimate outdoor entertainment space.
Terrain: The terrain is an open area sloping away from the house and bordered by rolling natural woodlands.
Special Features: The lanai, with a large stone fireplace, provides clients and their guests with a place to relax while using the adjacent bocce ball court.
Material Palette: Flagstone, brick and stucco complement the house. Other materials used in the lanai include limestone, wrought iron, cedar beams with fir ceiling, mahogany cabinets with leaded glass and soapstone counters.
Plantings: American and Korean Boxwoods, Crape Myrtle tree form, Styrax Japonica, Southern Magnolia, Sweet Bay Magnolia, Green Giant Arborvitae, Foster Holly, Endless Summer Hydrangea, Korean Spice Viburnum, bulbs, perennials, and annuals create a succession of color and seasonal interest.
Plan Design: Phil Kelly, McHale Landscape Design, Inc. (Virginia Division), McLean, VA. www.mchalelandscape.com

Lost Creek Landscapes, LLC

Challenges: Creating elevations to alter this flat piece of property was the main challenge.
Terrain: The terrain was formerly farmland and relatively flat.
Special Features: The vanishing edge on the free-form pool drops three and a half feet to a sunken beach area. A bar area beneath the cedar pergola has a sight line across the pool to the vanishing edge that is centered on a centuries-old Tulip Poplar.
Material Palette: Vertical faces are constructed of the West Virginia fieldstone veneer already used on the house. A variety of flagstones make up the paved surfaces.
Plantings: Low-maintenance plantings provide a windscreen to block gusts that blow across the open farmland, and specimen and ornamental trees provide added height variations and shade.
Plan Design: Butch Whitton, Lost Creek Landscapes, LLC, Chantilly, VA.

Petro Design/Build, Inc.

Challenges: Fixing the sump pump, which was emptying and circulating water into the rear yard and keeping the basement and adjoining alleyway constantly wet.
Special Features: Cobble set in mortar on a reinforced concrete base borders a diagonally laid flagstone patio with sod joints. This detail provided a carpeted look with an organic element in a small space.
Material Palette: Antique cobble, bluestone, stoneyhurst wall stone, flamed flagstone coping and lead shell for water spillage.
Plantings: The client’s garden includes a selection of perennials, herbs, specimen plants and annual flowers.
Plan Design: Vicki Wheatley Styles, Petro Design/Build, Inc., Mitchellville, MD. www.petrodesignbuild.com

Merrifield Garden Center

Challenges: The site featured prominent slopes and numerous mature trees. Both presented opportunities and difficulties. The client also had a complex list of program elements to fit into the master plan.
Terrain: The site sloped dramatically to dense parkland. Without numerous levels and terraces, it would have been unusable except as a green lawn. By working with the site, designers created patio space on multiple levels, an area for a pool and even a secret garden.
Features: A natural boulder waterfall conceals a hidden stone grotto and a pool and spa on the lowest terrace adjoin an enclosed pergola.
Material Palette: Pennsylvania bluestone was used for the patios and Endless Mountain dry-stacked stone on the walls.
Plantings: Specimen-quality Japanese Maples and Crape Myrtles offer seasonal color. To create year-round interest, Red twig dogwood, Boxwood, Hollies, Mahonia and Sarcococca provide color in the winter.
Plan Design: Joshua Dean, Merrifield Garden Center, Merrifield, VA.

Botanical Decorators
Challenges: The goal was to create an established feel to the home’s desolate setting while bringing the enormous house into scale with the property.
Terrain: The topography magnified the elevation of the house to make it appear more like a high-rise building. Also, the design was centered around the picturesque view into the wooded valley in the southwest corner of the property.
Plantings: More than 40 different types of plants, with an abundance of color and texture, fill the formerly desolate area.
Plan Design: Brian C. Hahn, Botanical Decorators, Olney, MD. www.botanicaldecorators.com

ZEN Associates, Inc.
Challenges: This project focused on developing a landscape plan for a client who owns a vast collection of interior and exterior artwork.
Terrain: The design takes advantage of an outcrop of natural ledge to create a serene garden that can be viewed from the master bedroom.
Special Features: A strolling path meanders along the existing topography at the far edge of the property, providing a venue to display the client’s art collection.
Material Palette: Stone paving, fieldstone walls and boulders were used to give the landscape a natural feeling that blends with the existing mature trees and the ledge.
Plan Design: Tim Houlihan, ZEN Associates, Inc., Boston, MA, and College Park, MD. www.zenassociates.com

Surrounds Landscape Architecture and Construction
Challenges: Utilizing the rock outcroppings for the aesthetics and rustic appearance, while at the same time trying not to hit any rock when excavating for walls, pool and other construction.
Terrain: The home sits on a large property in West Virginia with a massive amount of protruding rocks that provide a rural and beautiful appearance.
Special Features: Various features include the circle driveway, built-in masonry grill, cabana structure and entry arbor.
Material Palette: The front hardscape consists of an asphalt driveway with cobble edging. The walkway and steps are made of an irregular bluestone. In the rear area, the pool patios are made of Hanover concrete pavers and irregular bluestone.
Plantings: Weeping Alaskan cedars, Serbian spruce, River birch and Japanese Maple are the trees planted on this property.
Plan Design: Chad Talton, Surrounds Inc., Sterling, VA.

Fine Earth Landscape, Inc.
Challenges: Dealing with a 25-inch change in elevation presented a challenge, as did completing the project within the clients’ six-week timeframe.
Special Features: The project includes a lower terrace complete with a beautiful pond and waterfall wrapping around the new gazebo.
A pathway of large natural boulder steps leads to the home’s upper terrace.
Material Palette: The deck was constructed with ipê flooring and boasts a finished ceiling with skylights, fans to keep guests cool on hot summer days and recessed lights.
Plantings: A variety of plantings such as Hydrangeas and Viburnum shrubs and Coreopsis and Astilbe perennials provide color and texture in this landscape.
Plan Design: Bernie Mihm,
Fine Earth Landscape, Inc., Poolesville, MD. www.fineearth.com

Patuxent Outdoors Design and Build Company
Challenges: The sloping land on the left side down towards a ravine posed a challenge because this particular county has “No Build Zones” on steep slopes.
Terrain: The land slopes softly away from the residence, but drops off significantly to the left.
Special Features: An integrated outdoor kitchen and raised patio create an elevated entertaining area that overlooks the natural cascading waterfall across the pool. A portion of the patio has a boulder seating wall and built-in fire pit.
Material Palette: Natural Pennsylvania stones are blended to form the boulder and waterfall. The kitchen counters are made of cut bluestone and the decking is concrete.
Plantings: Native plantings, including River Birches and Viburnum, and a mix of successful shrubs, perennials and herbs, offer a blend of color, scent and texture.
Plan Design: Brian Holden, Patuxent Outdoors Design and Build Company, Bowie, MD.

Lost Creek Landscapes, LLC

McHale Landscape Design, Inc

Petro Design/Build

Merrifield Garden Center 

Botanical Decorators 

ZEN Associates 

Surrounds Landscape Architecture 

Fine Earth Landscape 

Patuxent Outdoors Design & Build Company**Out of the array of interior design magazines, Home and Design magazine stands out as a primary idea source for luxury home designs and landscape design ideas.  Wonderful visuals of inspired décor and lush landscapes are combined with expert advice to provide a fundamental reference point for bringing amazing home interior design ideas, and outdoor spaces to life.


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